Thursday, February 23, 2017

One China and Wishful Thinking

“Geopolitical realists like Henry Kissinger warned at the time that this set of circumstances could not last, that international competition was embedded in human nature and would return.”
Kagan, page 11, as below

Hello reader,
Got wishful thinking?

All my life, I have felt both fortunate and lonely. Unlike most of my generation, I was lucky: I raised myself on old high school history textbooks from when my parents were in school, back in the 1930’s. Fascinating books. Thereby I knew my world. When my fellow longhaired students, during social studies, wishfully said “violence never solves anything” and “this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” well, I knew better. And that was lonely.

What the “establishment” writers of high school textbooks, born in the 19th century, took for granted, are certain grim truths, as surely as air fills a vacuum, enduring through the past two millennia: If a state can conquer militarily, then it will. If it can expand power over other states economically, then it will. Yes Virginia, the Yankees imperialize. This does not, of course, apply to the gracious, humbler, gentleman states with little power: Of course they would resist the tendency to be corrupted into wanting more.

In East Asia today, the largest state is China. How much resistance to corruption would there be in the “workers paradise”? In theory, as in their magazine, China Reconstructs, the Chinese workers call each other comrade, never using feudal titles, while feeling solidarity with all the workers of the world. But some theories are disproven over time.

You might think, in this enlightened age, all nations should be equal. Yes, but the grandiose Chinese Communist Party leaders would add that China should be “more equal than others.” Special. With national glory, and special respect from their Asian neighbors. A belief straight out of the nineteenth century.

Before me is a news article, datelined Beijing, (Saturday Feb 11, 2017) headlined Trump reaffirms ‘One China’ policy. The story:

QUOTE “…The (U.S.) policy in place since 1979 requires Washington to maintain only unofficial ties with Taiwan, which China clams as its own territory.

China views any hint of official U.S. recognition of the island as an anathema to China’s revival as a great Asian power…. Trump agreed to honor the ‘one China’ policy, the White House said.” UNQUOTE —The Associated press

It seems President Trump has backed off on the idea of two states of Chinese people. The People’s Republic of China says the democratic Republic of Taiwan, on the island of Formosa, should belong to them, because it did in the past, before people fled there from communism. In a way, this is like how Argentinian children were taught to believe the barren Falkland Islands belonged to Argentina.

But Taiwan is not a barren rock supporting only sheep farmers; it supports 24 million people, more than lived in Canada at the time of our hundredth birthday in 1967. No, Beijing reasons more like the way Arab Iraq thought Arab Kuwait should be the thirteenth province of Iraq—at least, they did right up until Operation Desert Storm. I can understand that, because I understand that human nature doesn’t change as fast as a wall tumbles down, even if we wish it would.

When it comes to people, it’s so easy to fool ourselves. Take peaceful international trade, for example. Business guru Peter Drucker once wrote that the world was learning that tariffs did more harm than good: like wearing a sling to “support” your arm, it only end up making you weaker after you take it off. Drucker said the globe was moving towards sensible, practical “free trade,” a movement that stopped, he said, in the face of Japan (then the world’s second largest economy) practicing “adversarial trade,” for which the imperfect remedy was trading blocks.

Did he have wishful thinking? I wonder if the blocks are in fact a part of alliances from love-of-power. Because if he was right, then why is Japan a part of the proposed Pacific Trade Partnership? And why would there be some talk of the European Union angrily not trading equally with Britain once Britain exits the EU? You might call such behavior by the EU “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” I would call it, “the human factor.”

We see such human nature even in peaceful everyday life, right here in Canada.

Here the federal government might politely reduce its funding to the provinces, but never its power. This might be morally wrong, perhaps, because when Canada was formed in 1867, the number of cities was only two. Our “founding parental units” didn’t foresee that many cities would one day have gargantuan responsibilities. Result? Out of our individual wallets, none of our sales tax or income tax goes directly to the cities or municipalities, even today. (The cities are stuck with funding solely from property tax) You can bet the other levels of government are not about to say, “Oops, that was an 1867 oversight, let us fix it.”

No, the snobs say the city leaders, unlike the snobs themselves, can’t be trusted with reliable funding. Instead, cities have to keep applying for grants. Cynics say it would be easier to legislate brand new taxes for the cities, taking still more from my wallet, than to expect those powerful leaders to redistribute my taxes now flowing to the provinces and the feds. Ouch, my poor wallet!

Traditional human nature is why, in the middle of Southeast Asia, if the kingdom of Siam (Thailand) was never a European colony, if it remained independent, then this was only because the other colonizers saw Siam as a neutral zone between them. Try telling that to one of my idealistic peers in social studies, who would wishfully cry, “But that’s ancient history! People aren’t like that anymore!” Really? Can you spell Tibet? “But that’s only because of communism!”

When I was a boy, when China invaded Tibet, that country was too isolated to be militarily supplied, too far away for us to care to fight to save it. Now there is a railroad up to the Tibetan capital from China, like a fire hose relentlessly flooding Tibet with settlement by “real” Han Chinese. I am told that Chinese imperialism includes massive timber exploitation with resulting soil erosion, but I don’t know. And Taiwan? Their only hope for keeping their independence is that instead of being surrounded by remote mountains on the roof of the world, they are totally surrounded by sea. Accessible by the U.S. Navy. Still, if you were the nephew of President Trump, would you risk your life for Taiwan?

During the Age of Enlightenment, which occurred in the “space-time” of “Europe-1700’s,” folks came to believe the middle class was just as important as the ruling class—a truly revolutionary thought. And that science was at least as important as superstition. Such an exciting age!

In Europe, music changed from complex baroque era music, featuring music hard to play, and not for singing, to classical era music, which finally featured melodies the common man could relate to, and could sing. And this new music did not have a “national” characteristic. This equality and internationalism was something new under the European sun. 

In America, Thomas Paine galvanized the colonies to believe in revolution, with his pamphlet Common Sense (still in print here today—I wonder if they read it in Taiwan?) He explained the practical economics of independence, including the Common Sense fact that his countrymen could forge enough steel nails, and cut enough timber, to create a navy great enough to safeguard their independence.

It’s as if Paine believed not just in ideals, but also in having the power to violently protect those ideals. That proposed navy, of course, within a century, would be why the European powers, during the American civil war, didn’t dare break the northern blockade to buy southern cotton and sell food to the starving rebels—lest the U.S. Navy retaliate once the war was over.

As for human nature and the civil war, many of the horrors of the First World War were foreshadowed by that war, for example trenches with barb wire, (as in the movie Cold Mountain) and awful “total war.” (as in “marching through Georgia”) Yet, due to the weakness of grandiose European snobbery, the American experience was ignored: The reality of stinking trenches came as a complete surprise to the Europeans. Call it the human factor.

We of the here-and-now are just as bad. Living under our gracious Queen Elizabeth II, we believe the Muslim world should have freedom of thought just like us, and not murder people for what they say out loud. We forget their reality: Arabs, with hundreds of princes in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia alone, have not yet entered the 1700’s, they are still at the stage of Queen Elizabeth I. (And they still don’t politically separate mosque and state) Such is our snobbery, or, at least, our wishful thinking. The rest of the world is not magically tied to us with a piece of string, advancing as we advance.

We can only wish they were attached. After the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, many world leaders and experts in Europe and the U.S. thought nineteenth century power politics was over. Nobody, in their wildest dreams, thought that forcibly replacing the Ukraine’s nuclear weapons with a promise of U.S. defense, would lead to Russia annexing the Crimea. We thought the word “annexing” was in history’s rubbish bin.

“In a globalized economy, most believed, nations had no choice but to liberalize, first economically, then politically, if they wanted to compete and survive.” Partly because “… growing middle classes would demand legal and political power, which rulers would have to grant if they wanted their nations to prosper.” Page 5.

This was wishful thinking. We know now they were wrong, just as they were wrong after 9/11 when they would say terrorism “comes from poverty and despair.” (The attackers of 9/11 were rich middle class; Osama Bin Laden was filthy rich)

The page 5 quote is from a lovely Vintage Press book (2008) of only 100 pages, plus notes, The Return of History and the end of dreams by Robert Kagan. On page 96 is a quote regarding quarreling nations having the temptation to close crucial sea-lanes:
“If this hasn’t happened in recent decades, it is not because the nations of the world have learned, evolved and adapted new norms of international behavior. It is because the American navy dominates the oceans.”

Well. Maybe “Yankees imperialism,” or at least the U.S. Navy, is a Good Thing. (Despite those ignorant youth, in our longhaired days, saying the armed forces should all be disbanded. Remember?)  

My heritage is the enlightenment; my culture is North American. During World War II, we Americans believed that people who originally came here as children from the axis countries of Germany, Italy and Japan, people who were raised here to be assimilated, would fight fiercely against those fascist states when war broke out… Years after the war, when nations such as South Africa believed in lesser rights for “guest workers,” well, our belief was that the children of such workers, born and raised in the only land they’ve ever known, deserved to vote as free and equal citizens. “One person, one vote” we told the South Africans.

As children back home in Vancouver, and in your hometown too, I’m sure, we had a code in our schoolyard. Remember? If we saw a smaller boy being bullied by a bigger boy, then if the small kid were trying to punch back, we would go and join his fight. Years later some of those schoolboy fighters, as adults of British, Japanese and Chinese heritage, would be jolly sailors together in the navy. Today our navy would include young men of Chinese and Taiwanese heritage.

Taiwan? It’s obvious. People who fled “mainland China” (red China) as toddlers would be senior citizens now. Angrily shaking their canes against communism. Everybody younger would have grown up assimilated, knowing only democracy, loving the green hills of Taiwan, proud of their flag and their armed forces.  Calling themselves Taiwanese.

As surely as North Americans love freedom, if China invades Taiwan, and if the Taiwanese are willing to throw their first punch, then we will fight alongside them.

Sean Crawford

~For Peter Drucker’s writings I am going by my memory, I forget where he published.

~Everything I know about how “music mirrors culture” is from Professor Robert Greenberg through his course How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, through The Teaching Company, distributed by The Great Courses. He said the music of the enlightenment came to be called classical because it embodied the principles of beauty expressed by the classical democracies of Greece and Rome.

~ “only two cities,” and the messed up tax funding, comes from Canadian visionary Jane Jacobs, best known for her The Death and Life of Great American Cities, as reported in her last book, Dark Ages Ahead.

~Of course terrorism does NOT come from “poverty and despair,” not according to science. See my essay John Kerry likes Terrorists, archived march of 2016

~ “red China” was a cold war term, to separate the two Chinas, later superseded by “mainland China.” Taiwan did not merely become a new home for a few politicians and the palace guard, but for a vast army and vast numbers of refugees.

Was there ever a red Russia? No, because the white Russians ended up driving cabs in Paris, cooking short orders in New York City, existing in rotting tenements in Shanghai.
At the end of WWI, parts of the Canadian army, and others, instead of going straight back home to Canada, went to Russia to help the white Russians defeat the revolution. (like in Animal Farm) The reds won, the whites lost—and the unfortunate whites had no island to retreat to.  

~I could have guessed: (Page 30) “For the first time in centuries, China thinks of itself as a sea power.” As for propaganda: (Page 110) “The Chinese are now taught to think “of sea as territory… and to understand that their ‘sovereignty’ includes three million square miles of ocean and seas.””

~Unlike American Muslims during Vietnam and apartheid, U.S. Muslims today are not visibly seen as trying to educate folks overseas that Islam means peace. Such a pity.

But if they did so, using their credibility of being fellow-Muslims, born overseas from Arabia, then I wonder what would be the effect, both in Muslim countries and over here? In America it surely couldn’t increase fear of Muslim terror, and it might well decrease the fear.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Free Fall Poetry

Hello reader,
it’s Valentine week.
Got love poems?

Green is for grass, green is for trees,
green is for beautiful, beautiful leaves
Green is the vale where my love lies,
green is the love, in my love’s eyes
From a song in my "free fall" story about orphans with green skin
Sean Crawford

One of my little joys in life is going every Friday to my free fall group where we can express ourselves. By “free fall,” as invented by novelist W.O. Mitchell, I mean we write swiftly without stopping or self-editing. People in my group are mostly moved to write fiction. For me personally, since at home I daily write nonfiction, it feels so good to unleash my imagination.

After hearing a common “Prompt,” we all lean over and industriously write in our notebooks for about fifteen minutes; then we go around reading aloud. Somebody in the group told me that when I write “outside the box” I give others permission to write “outside the box.” That’s nice. Sometimes a person will pen a rant, an essay, or a memoir. Sometimes someone will write a spontaneous poem, one that rhymes, the way poems did back in our youth. Did you know modern poems don’t rhyme? Maybe next week I’ll “free fall” a non-rhyming poem.

What is the purpose of a poem? Of writing? Of any art? Why does our city mandate that one per cent of all public works budgets must be set aside for art? (Don’t you love those carved fish along the side of the Glenmore Trail underpass?) Easy: If our city didn’t have any public art, and public trees, then things would be very dull and grey. And then we wouldn’t have all those head offices relocating here. (We have the most head offices in Canada, next to Toronto, partly because of Quebec separatism)

So here are some of my recent free fall poems—not edited, as free fall is not edited, and not for publication—poems that served to brighten some Friday mornings of our group.

Is it a love poem if I want to strangle you?
Only if I love you will I say I do
The coin has two sides, of love and hate
As for success, we’ll have to wait.

God will judge us, at the end of our days
Judging our coupleship, and its myriad ways
Of devotion and trials and tea late at night
Of buckets and soaps and smiles so white

I know loves remains, if our voice is strangled
Oh how I love, and it’s all tangled.

Prompt- winning game
When last we took you through the door
You waved your ribbon from principal Gore
And now we set you on your bed so high
With L.E.D.s that spell the sky

You won our hearts, with yours so big
Your heart had a valve, blocked by a twig
A part of nature, like fallen sheaves
I see you in the fallen leaves

You lurched and swayed, without any grace
I ignored that, to see your face
You hugged so well, with the press of love
And now my touch is masked by glove

I can only press, and look fondly down
And hope to join you, in God’s own town.

Prompt-new places
Over the hills and far away
Bears and robins like to play
Every morning I awake and say,
I wonder what will I do today

My friend Piglet will hang out with me
Sometimes we sit and just let be
Sine waves and static, roar like the sea
And I don’t care, no, not me

I want to go where there’s sweets and books
And crazy capes on crazy hooks
And ally-ways narrow and filled with spooks
And twists and turns and little nooks

Prompt- grandma on a ladder
Grandma on a ladder by a reindeer
That’s not how to spend your Halloween,
You might say it was a real good costume
But grandma really wants to vent her spleen

She was having a good time stringing jack-o-lanterns
Her grip on the ladder quite relaxed,
When some fool with a jetpack and a costume
Made her glad that she was wearing slacks

Now grandpa has the perfect excuse
To buy hydraulic cherry pickers and giraffes
And on Halloween he doesn’t dare to wear his jet pack
He just looks like Gandalf with his staffs

Oh you can fly your jet pack over hades
Feeling safe that you are doing well
But anyone who costumes as a reindeer
Will be kicked by grandma straight to hell.

Sean Crawford


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

New Doctor Who
Headnote: British writer Alain de Botton points out in his The News: A User’s Manuel (highly recommended) that modern news reports of “unbelievable” gruesome behavior serve a purpose similar to the Greek publicly staged tragedies, serving to remind us to curb ourselves…

Call me a writer, but I am so impressed by the new improved Doctor Who stories. I can understand how an actor, on the DVD bonus interviews, says he only took on the revived role of “the doctor” because he knew the scripts would be so good. No doubt the writers know the fearsome classics of ancient Greece …

From the British Broadcasting Corporation, the TV series of my childhood has been re-envisioned. Last week a young lady at an author’s reading, “open microphone” at Owl’s Nest Books, gave me her evaluation of the new show: “It’s creepy.”

She’s right. As I watch, I can’t help thinking of how small children would be disturbed. While the original show aired during early Saturday afternoons, in half hour installments, the new one runs during the evening, from 7:30 or later, in large time blocks. Although shown before children’s bedtime, or as they say at the BBC, “before the watershed,” the show is surely for an older audience than before, and can carry a different freight load of meaning. The old show was nearly as innocent as the old Bat Man series where the villains only used knock out gas. From the new show, I recall an episode where nobody died. The doctor was so happy; he practically danced with joy, saying, “Nobody dies today!” I can relate.

As he travels in his blue box, through space and time, the doctor keeps many secrets from his centuries of living, even keeping his very name a secret.  

As for the Earth of today, someone once told me that in southern Italy, but not the north, many people practice an “amoral familism”: They set their own family above community standards, in order to justify their corruption. In one Doctor Who episode a murderous lady of such a family is ready to incinerate a populated world for her family’s profit. The doctor has supper with her at a nice restaurant, making nice conversation—and then he points out how she justifies her self esteem by occasionally not killing someone. She leans forward to reply viciously, “Only another killer would know that.” Yes, the doctor has his secrets.

The new doctor still goes weaponless; he’s still against killing. Once, when his companion points a revolver he shouts, “Jack, don’t you dare!” Jack resorts to firing into the sky. The new series was surely inspired by writers who know their liberal arts, for while the doctor is as compassionate as the Madonna and as fun loving as Dionysius, he is as merciless as the goddess of Justice. That is, after he has removed his blindfold by discovering the facts.

In one scene, when he learns the Truth, his face goes as grave as Abraham Lincoln: he confronts an alien.
Dr: “(What you are doing)…is against galactic law.”
Alien: “Are you threating me?”
Dr: “I’m trying to help you, Cofelia. This is your one chance. ‘Cause if you don’t call this off, then I’ll have to stop you.”

As for his “stopping power,” the good doctor is not without resources. As an antagonist reflects, “I thought the doctor hid himself from us out of fear; I know now it was out of kindness.” In his kindness the doctor differs from classical times, as I don’t remember any famous people of Greece or Rome, nor their gods on Mount Olympus, being known for kindness.

The Greeks said every good citizen is expected to “have a life” meaning, I suppose, that besides being well rounded, they should be able to think of something beyond themselves, such as their city-state and the people around them, humble under the gods. In one story the doctor finds an old race at the very end of its natural life span, a race with no interests, no humbleness and no compassion, neither for each other nor for other intelligent races. In other words, they no longer “have a life.”

When he asks these creatures why they would kill humans they reply, “Because it’s fun.” A fitting justice for them, surely, would be imprisonment amongst only each other, caring for no one, bored with everything. They are a lesson to me: When I win the lottery and retire as a filthy rich senior citizen who doesn’t need anybody anymore, let’s hope having a healthy interest in the world keeps me having healthy fun.

Another story drew on a line from old wisdom: “You are only as sick as your secrets.” The doctor, in deep sympathy, encourages a grown woman to reveal her secret. Abruptly she bursts out with despairing tears, lonely tears, tears of time irrevocably lost. If I been there with her? I confess I could not have cried along with her in sympathy, not I, for I have an automatic rigid control. How I became such a metamorphic rock is my own secret…

…As I watch the doctor traveling out there in time and space, I feel hope from knowing that here on Earth some BBC writers, with great sympathy, are sharing age-old secrets of the human heart.

Sean Crawford

~Perhaps the Brazilians, at present, practice an amoral familism too. Here (link) a U.S. blogger with a Brazilian wife writes an open letter calling on them to reform.

~I can remember from my childhood, back during black and white TV, watching the first doctor, an old man. His first adventure, which I caught halfway through, was to go back to the cavemen days on Earth. Next he met the dreaded Daleks for the first time, before he knew what they were. They lived in a city of steel amidst a burnt lifeless forest. This was not on the planet Skaro.

Captain Jack:
~He eventually got his own TV show: The BBC writers were so pleased that it aired after the watershed. Now they could tackle things that, for American viewers, would “rattle their chains.” Not rattled from Jack using his revolver, for in America there are more guns than people, but for things such as adultery, tortuous interrogation and homosexual love. That show is Torchwood. Highly recommended.

~From the back of the U.S. region DVD box, perhaps aimed at youth worshipping Americans: Everyone who works for Torchwood is young, under 35. Some say that’s because it is a new science. Others say it’s because they die young.

My enduring image from Torchwood is of two young men without helmets or armored vests. They remind me of the ancient Greek quotation, “An army of lovers cannot be beaten.” I guess this means no Greek in line of battle, standing shield to shield, would shamefully break the line and run, endangering everyone else, no, not before the eyes of his lover….

They stand in loose shirtsleeves, these two lovers, holding pistols, shoulder to shoulder, before a large transparent smoke-filled cube. It shelters an intelligent monster. Within the cube the atmosphere is poisonous, while the air outside is poisonous to the creature. Children’s lives are at stake. There is no time to waste: If they can kill the monster right now then children will be spared. They stand together, pistols bucking, firing into the glass, knowing that if they succeed then the escaping gas will kill them…

…I won’t reveal what happened. Let’s just leave them there, firing their pistols.